Tuesday, June 08, 2010

GTOW (Geek tip of the week)

Thinking like a geek:  Ideas you can bank on.

Geeks hate the phrase "think outside the box".  We hate it because that's where we live.  By our nature we look for new ways to accomplish a goal.  Telling us to TOTB is like telling us to breathe.  It's annoying.  Being able to think this way however is what gives us whatever advantage we have in this technological world.  For example.  Geeks play this little game.  It's called "did you hear?" or "have you tried?".  We play at one-upping each other by being the first to hear about a new discovery or news item or to be the first to try a new gadget/app/website.  It pretty much means that we are always on the very edge of what's happening in the world 5 minutes ago.

I often hear the words come out of my mouth "did you hear..?" when talking with non-geeks.  Their eyes go wide with wonder that I've heard about the latest news development when it's only 4pm.  How could I know that?  The news hasn't been on yet.  When pressed about how I know - I most often just hold up my Droid.  The non-geek then quickly dismisses me/it.  That's not real news and only freaks think that you can get news on that interweb thing...  6 o clock or the newspaper is the only real news.

Um - if this was a business competition.  I'm at least an hour ahead of you on the latest - plus I probably have read several analysis of the report and maybe even have some inside info via twitter from someone "on the ground" that you won't get.  Because it's my nature to look for more efficient ways of achieving a goal.  Writing off a solution because it's not the way you have always done it is to limit yourself. 

This is like never trying new food.  I've never understood how people will refuse to try new food just because it's not what they normally like.  Why would you limit your life experience like that?  Imagine never trying steak or ice cream simply because it's not fish and sweet rice (or vice versa). Crazy!

I'm going to give you a real world example.  This WILL make your life better.  I guarantee it.  I live this, and it's awesome.  Geeks reading this that aren't (yet) doing what I'm about to present will facepalm simply because they hadn't thought this through yet (or they are married to a non-geek).

I would however bet your house, that a high percentage of the people that read this will simply shake their heads and say "that's crazy" or it would never work for me because... (insert rationalization here).  Tell yourself whatever you want but the real reason will simply be - because it's not the way I've always done it.  You have to live with that. 

Here we go:  (please bear with me as I have a conversation with myself)

I hate dealing with money.  I hate bills. I hate going to the bank.  I really hate wasting my life balancing a checkbook.  It all sucks rocks.  How can this process be made better? 

Lets take this a step at a time.  First, the easy stuff.  I can mostly avoid going to the bank if I sign up for direct deposit.  Wait - how will I know when the deposit is made and for how much?  Simple - my employer still gives me a statement.  Maybe it's electronic at work.  Plus I can see my bank account online.   What if there is a mistake?  Well, what if there's a mistake the way I do it now?  Good point. Ok, Direct deposit it is.

Next - I hate wasting time on that damn checkbook.  How can I deal with that?  What causes the problem... Well really two things.  First, I have to keep two sets of books because it takes time for the checks to clear.  Second there are at least 4 separate possibilities for errors to creep in when humans (myself, the payee, the bank, and myself again) can screw up.  Plus I never really know how much money I've got.  Solution - stop writing checks and just use the debit card and cash.  Everything is automatic.  No humans involved.  But then how do I balance the checkbook?  Oh that's right - I don't have one.  How do I know how much money I've got?   Your bank is online dummy.  What if there's a mistake?  From where?  Humans are the problem with checkbooks.  A debit card is direct with no human hands to hose it up. (except outright fraud and paper makes that even simpler)

Note: I actually find that when I make a purchase - the transaction has posted to my account before I get home.  I have a running, accurate to the minute balance all the time and NEVER waste time balancing my checkbook. (I don't have one anyway)

Now the last one - Bills.  How do I pay bills when I don't have a checkbook?  Use your bank's online bill payment service.  But that costs money!  So do stamps, envelopes, and gas.  Plus what's that Saturday afternoon you spent paying bills and shuffling paper worth to you?   Spend the time that you normally use to pay bills once.  Setup your payees on your bank's system and be done.  From then on paying bills takes a few clicks. 

Note: My bank's system already knows addresses or has electronic connections with almost every possible payee.  In many cases it's possible to receive my bills directly into my banks system and do away with the paper and even emails totally.  I just log in and see what's due.

The final hitch(s).  How do I pay individuals - like friends or my tax accountant without a checkbook?  And more importantly, what about pizza delivery?  The answers are:  Online banking, Cash, PayPal, and online pizza ordering.  First, my bank's online system allows for payment to individuals - they send a paper check but it's immediately reflected in my account.  No waiting for it to clear.  Second you can allways pay your friend in cash, via your bank's system, or via an online system like PayPal (admittedly PayPal is probably more accepted with your geek friends).  Lastly, ordering pizza online is awesome!  Quite possibly the peak of our civilization!  Do it one time and you will never go through repeating your order 16 times to a stoned teenager working 10 lines again.  I promise.

What if I get a check from someone else?  Try to get payment from others via PayPal or in cash.  When that fails you will have to make the trip to the bank.  This is changing though - some banks are now allowing you to deposit checks based on a photo or a scan of the check. At least one bank includes this feature in their iPhone app.  About time.

Lastly - how do I float a check?  A - Don't.  If you have no checkbook you can't anyway.  Honestly - this system will make you an honest person with your money.  It will make you MORE responsible because you will always know how much you have (or don't) in your account.  My only caution here:  You must fully adopt this method.  You cannot partially or mostly do this.  If you keep a checkbook - you will hose yourself.  Get rid of it.  There is no hybrid solution.

This is quite possibly the greatest geek tip.  It will forever change your life for the better.  It's up to you to think like a geek, reason it out and make the change.  Simply dismissing this because "it won't work for me" puts you in the same group with those that dismissed the horseless carriage because it had no horse.

Please don't hesitate to comment or email me about this one.  I guarantee I can answer your questions and "what-if"s.  I've been handling my money this way for 5 years and I still marvel that I ever thought a checkbook was a good idea.

Posted via email from ninjahippie's (pre) posterous

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